FILM REVIEW – QUARTET by DAVID BARROW

This week’s DVD review ‘Quartet’ is a wonderful film which raises the spirits and leaves the viewer with a terrific feeling of happiness in the knowledge that positive thinking and the courage to join together with  others can achieve so much pleasure.

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Quartet was premiered in 2013 and is the directorial debut of actor Dustan Hoffman. It has been billed as a comedy but perhaps that understates the style and content of this film.

Quartet is emotive, warm and satisfying with many hilarious moments but the deeper humanity of the film is found in the brilliantly conceived story concept, the  outstanding performances, the polished script and the beautifully crafted direction that perfectly compliments the delicate story that unfolds.

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The setting for Quartet is Beecham House, an elegant English period home for aged musicians. Here the residents continue to share their common bond of fine music and relive their glory days as top professional musicians and performers. Brought together is an eclectic mix of talent with pedantic artistic temperaments and egos to match that reflect the world of stardom from which they have emerged.  The clash of wills creates a fascinating and deeply moving story.

Leading the way in this very English production is an outstanding cast. Tom Courtenay in the role of Reginald Paget, was a leading tenor on the international stage during his heyday.  Maggie Smith in the role of Jean Horton comes to Beecham House some years after stepping down from her stella career as a soprano, famed for her performances of Rigoletto. In an earlier life Reginald and Jean were married, a union that was destroyed by Jean’s infidelity and rampant ego.  By fate they are brought together again at Beecham House.   Adding to the interplay of characters is Michael Gambon, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly. They add depth, understanding and dimension to this wonderful tale which is as much about reconciliation with life and ageing as it is about fulfilment and enjoying life’s opportunities as they arise.

Quartet is made more remarkable and believable by the supporting cast; the other residents of Beecham House.  Throughout, musical performance is a feature of the film and many of those performing were in real-life leading professional musicians as singers, soloists and members of orchestras.  The quality of music performance is a hallmark of this production.

Dustin Hoffman has clearly demonstrated his prowess as a director with this production. His style is assured, crisp and his deep understanding of performance is clearly revealed in the convincing on-screen presence delivered by the cast.  Hopefully more productions under his guidance will be delivered shortly.

Quartet is available on DVD.  Running time 94 minutes.  The photographs are courtesy of Hedsor House, Taplow Buckinghamshire, UK. Hedsor House was the location for Quartet.